Last week I relayed the true story of the annual holiday humiliation of a middle-aged woman embarking on a shame-filled expedition to purchase a holiday party dress at the last minute. When we last left Jane (a fictional name that doesn’t sound like Kelly), she was having a mild anxiety attack inside the change room, brought on by the realization she should never dress shop in white sport socks.
A lovely salesclerk, who sounded and looked like Mrs. Potts from Beauty and the Beast, was guiding Jane through the painful process of selecting a dress. But the dear woman was trying to take plain Jane from a cinder sweep to Cinderella. She had her work cut out for her. Like any fairy godmother, Mrs. Potts had a fabulous eye for fashion and body shape, and a temperament that could be forceful without being overbearing. She also had no problem paying a compliment or dishing out the hard truths. “It’s a cute dress. Your teenage daughter would love it. But she is the only one who should wear it.” Ouch. But accurate.
Mrs. Potts was kind and attentive, despite repeatedly beckoning Jane from outside the change-room and coaxing her to step out of the safe zone and into the public viewing area in her glittery gowns and white sport socks. Yes, Jane was a sparkly deer in the retail headlights. It wasn’t pretty.
Jane could not have suspected the bedazzled black dress that looked like Audrey Hepburn got attacked by the costume-jewelry goblin. Prayers were muttered. Guts were sucked in. Underwear choice, much like the white sports socks, was questioned. How was Jane going to get out of this dress once she got in it? And why did Jane eat chip dip this weekend, just six days before her company Christmas party? Why, Jane? Why?
Jane sucked it up and sucked it in and emerged from the dressing room to discover a small crowd had gathered. Shoppers were looking on with relief that Mrs. Potts was not dressing them. Mrs. Potts ushered Jane to the three-way mirror and insisted she spin. Poor Jane, she has self-esteem issues. While others applauded, she saw only the flaws. In defiance, she pointed to her midriff, which was really more of a sandbar. Mrs. Potts, in her best maternal voice, said, “Oh love, all that proves is you’ve had children. You can still knock out that dress. The only one seeing your flaws is you, my love. Just you.” Jane knew then and there that she should invite Mrs. Potts to Christmas dinner. But Jane doesn’t actually cook Christmas dinner, so never mind.
The real test of this budding friendship came with the words, “Deary, I really want you to try this one on. It’s a bit flashy but you’ve got the colouring to pull it off.” All Jane heard was flashy. Understatement of the century. The wee little dress was a barrage of gold and red sequins more appropriate for Las Vegas than the local Legion hall. Still, Jane could not disappoint Mrs. Potts.
In the end, the magic Mrs. Potts sold Jane both dresses. On the night of her party, Jane wore the sequins. She shone like a human disco ball, but she did so with confidence, because life is too short not to shine. Jane knows self-acceptance is key. She’s right.